United off to a flyer but are far from convincing
Manchester U 1 Galatasary 0:AFTER ALL the trials and tribulations of last season’s humiliating Champions League campaign, Manchester United got this year’s group stage off to a winning start, although this was a far from convincing performance against a Galatasaray side who were entitled to feel deeply aggrieved they had nothing to show for their efforts.
If anything summed up United’s night it was Nani’s dreadful penalty kick, the winger’s effort easily saved by Fernando Muslera after he stepped forward with a total lack of conviction. United have now missed all three penalties this season – Robin van Persie and Javier Hernandez are the other guilty men – and it was easy to imagine Alex Ferguson’s hairdryer being put to use in the dressing room afterwards.
In the end United were grateful for Michael Carrick’s wonderful early goal, which was the midfielder’s first in the Champions League since he scored against Wolfsburg three years ago and just about proved to be enough to vanquish a Galatasaray side that played with attacking abandon. Only the combination of David de Gea’s fine goalkeeping, some generous refereeing and a touch of misfortune in front of goal prevented Fatih Terim’s team from scoring the goal that they arguably deserved.
United started sloppily and were fortunate not to concede a penalty in the opening minute. Nemanja Vidic was nowhere near the ball when he caught Umut Bulut but Wolfgang Stark, the German referee, waved played on. Galatasaray were left nursing a seething sense of injustice that deepened six minutes later when they fell behind.
It was a beautiful goal from United’s point of view and illustrated what a graceful player Carrick can be. Picking up possession deep in midfield, the England international played the ball into Van Persie’s feet and continued his run, elegantly striding forward to receive it back from the Dutchman before swapping passes with Shinji Kagawa, slicing open the Galatasaray defence in the process and leaving him one on one with Muslera. Carrick swayed his hips and danced around the Galatasaray goalkeeper, admirably staying on his feet when he could have gone down, before planting the ball into an empty net.
In a lively opening spell, United could have gone ahead moments earlier when Nani was played in by the intelligent Kagawa but Muslera dashed from his line and smothered at the Portuguese’s feet. United, however, were far from dominant and there were plenty of nervous moments for the home supporters to endure in an opening 45 minutes when Galatasaray played with courage and confidence.
There was a warning for United in the 10th minute, when Nordin Amrabat escaped in oceans of space on the Galatasaray left and, with Jonny Evans backing off, the winger accepted the invitation to cut inside before curling a superb right-footed shot that clipped the top of the crossbar.
Emmanuel Eboue, the former Arsenal full-back, had a shot deflected wide after breaking on the right and the impressive Hamit Altintop struck the outside of the upright from a well-worked free-kick.
Galatasaray should have been awarded another free-kick on the edge of the United area on the stroke of half-time but Carrick, chasing back, got away with a foul on Altintop that only added to the visitors’ frustrations.
To rub salt into Galatasaray wounds, United were given a penalty early in the second half in an almost identical position to where Vidic had upended Bulut. Rafael, gliding forward from right-back, stepped inside Hakan Balta and was brought down by Burak Yilmaz.
Nani placed the ball on the spot and thereafter it was a lesson in how not to take a penalty. He stopped mid-run and telegraphed his intentions, sweeping a right-footed shot at a comfortable height nowhere near the corner.
Vidic headed over and Patrice Evra went close but United were indebted to De Gea for two fine saves to deny Yilmaz and the substitute Emre Colak. The late introduction of Darren Fletcher, making his first appearance for nine months after being sidelined with ulcerative colitis, gave United fans something to cheer at the end of a tense evening.
MANCHESTER UTD: De Gea, Da Silva, Vidic, Evans, Evra, Valencia, Carrick, Scholes (Fletcher 79), Nani, Kagawa (Welbeck 84), van Persie (Hernandez 81). Subs not used: Lindegaard, Ferdinand, Anderson, Cleverley. Booked: Evra, Vidic, van Persie.
GALATASARAY: Muslera, Eboue, Nounkeu, Kaya, Balta, Altintop, Felipe Melo (Aydin Yilmaz 79), Inan, Amrabat (Colak 63), Burak Yilmaz, Bulut (Elmander 15). Subs not used: Ceylan, Cris, Riera, Baytar. Booked: Felipe Melo.
Referee: Wolfgang Stark (Germany).